A bill calling for State Board of Education elections narrowly failed the House Wednesday afternoon.
This was the third rendition of the bill this session.
House Bill 293 called for partisan elections of seven State Board members, who are currently appointed by the governor. The bill would split Idaho into seven regional districts, and the board would receive one representative from each district. Elected State Board members would receive a $12,000 annual stipend (current members are volunteers).
The state superintendent would chair the board, and serve as secretary.
Bill sponsor Rep. Joe Alfieri, R-Coeur d’Alene, said the intent is to boost regional representation on the board. Currently, four of the seven appointed members live in Boise.
But lawmakers from across the state pushed back Wednesday afternoon.
Opponents found a laundry list of problems with the bill. Some said it would present an unwarranted precedent for other state boards and commissions, and others said the State Board shouldn’t be elected, let alone partisan.
“I think this is one of those boards where you want to have credentials and ability, and not campaign finance, campaign fundraising and politics,” said Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise.
Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said the bill was poorly written. Designating the state superintendent as the chair and secretary of the board, he said, would add an unneeded burden. “I want people to consider what they’re asking of the superintendent of public instruction, who the people elected — and not for that purpose.”
Supporters echoed Alfieri’s concerns about representation. Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, fired back at Boise representatives who voiced opposition to HB 293. “Consider the representation of the rest of the state,” said Scott.
After a lengthy debate, the House killed the bill with a 34-35 vote.